How To Love Yourself While Living With Depression & Anxiety

How To Love Yourself While Living With Depression & Anxiety

Accept the love that YOU deserve.
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I will never forget the day that my doctor diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. I felt both a sense of relief, for finally knowing what was causing me to feel like a person who barely existed anymore, and a sense of both dread and embarrassment. When I looked at myself in the mirror I did not see your "textbook" depressed female; I saw a 22-year-old who worked multiple jobs, went to school and had a fairly active social life. How was I depressed? But as my doctor continued to ask me questions about how certain scenarios made me feel, or how I reacted to various things I began to understand what so many people still don't... there is no mold for a person who suffers from depression and anxiety and they affect everybody in very different ways. This has been one of the hardest lessons for me to learn, to not compare myself to how others react to and handle their mental illness. What has helped me with this disease has been to identify five different ways that I can work towards bettering and loving myself while living with both depression and anxiety.

1. Have a Support System

When you suffer from mental illness, many days you just want to be alone, push people away and do your own thing. But this can actually do more harm than good because as you spend more and more time alone, the easier it is to become overwhelmed by all the negativity and fear running through your mind. It is important to have people you can turn to when you feel down, or even better have that person who knows you need them before you even have to ask. I could not make it through my anxiety attacks without my sweet husband. He is my rock when it comes to dealing with my mental health. Panic attacks for me are ugly. Hyperventilating on the kitchen floor, trying to pull my hair out, ugly. Many people would shy away from this scene, but my husband embraces it as part of who I am, and then he literally embraces me. He reminds me of my worth and my strength. He comforts me in my weakness. And he reminds me that I've made it through this before and I'll do it again. I could not get through these attacks without him and my handful of other close friends who keep me going at my worst. So even if you want to push them away; use your support system. You need them.

2. Do The Things You Enjoy

This is our life right? So why do we let others choose what can and cannot make us happy? We already spend so much time trying to please others, so why not let ourselves have some joy in the things that we love. When I am feeling extra anxious or down, I love getting my sketchpad out and doodling. I am not the best artist, my "work" would never be of any worth to anyone else, but to me, it shows improvement. It shows that instead of curling up in bed and crying, I made myself do something. It is so helpful to have a psychical reminder of success when it comes to dealing with mental illness. Something you can look at and say "I did that!" So if you like to paint, draw, craft, cook, bake or make balloon animals, do it! Allow yourself that joy.

3. Be Active

Any doctor will tell you that exercise is crucial to staying healthy, even more so for someone who deals with mental health. Endorphin's make you happy, right? We need more happy feelings in our brains right? It is so good to be active. But for someone like myself who deals with anxiety, thinking about going to the gym is enough to send me straight to bed with the covers pulled over my head. I am working so hard to be comfortable with my body but some days the gym is not part of the plan because I literally cannot go inside. I'm not even exaggerating here. I have gotten ready, got in my car and driven to the gym and then sat in said car and cried because I was so anxious about going inside.

It sounds so pathetic, right? Sitting in my car, crying before going to the gym of all places. But for me, it is a reality. A not very fun reality. But instead of letting that get to me and keep from getting the exercise that I needed, I have learned to be creative in the ways I get my physical activity in. If you put the effort in, you can find so many ways to keep yourself healthy. A big one for me is to take in all the beauty that Utah has to offer. Since moving here, my husband and I have spent so much time outside exploring and hiking, and because it is so much fun, I do not even realize that I am working out! I also try to find a way to at least stretch every day. I often get that stretching in at work, where I teach Pre-K. My students love "workout" time and it’s a huge mood booster for myself to see them having so much fun and I'm able to get my blood pumping too. I am not perfect about working out and always eating the right way, but I do notice a huge change in my mood and outlook when I push myself to be active. Working out and being active will help improve your mental health in so many ways, you just have to find a way that makes it fun for you!

4. Don't expect perfection.

This is the hardest point for me personally. I am literally working on this every single day. And I will probably be working on it for the rest of my life. Depression and anxiety can be worsened when we constantly compare ourselves to those around us, the images we see on television and the internet and, the worst of all, old versions of our self. Comparing myself now to who I was "pre-depression" is a guaranteed way to make me feel bad about myself. I look at pictures and recall activities that I was participating in then and I realize that I am not doing any of those things now because some days it is hard to leave the house to get groceries. Do not do this to yourself. It just simply is not fair. We are changing every day. I am not supposed to be the same person that I was 5 years ago. If I was, then I would not be progressing the way that I am supposed to. I might have gained more weight than I planned on because of health issues, and I might not have as many "friends" as I did when I was 18, but I have had experiences that have made me an overall stronger person. Focusing on the "whole picture" is very important. The anxiety makes it easy to break down every minute detail about your past and present self, but those small details are not what matters. What matters is taking the experiences and challenges you are given and using them to become the best version of yourself. To quote Hannah Montana, "Nobody's perfect! I gotta work it! Again and again 'til I get it right..." Expecting perfection is a dangerous thing. Instead, strive to live each day the best that you can, know your limits and your goals and forget what the world thinks. Every day that we get up and push on, is a day that I count as a success!
I hope that if you are reading this and you are someone that struggles with depression and anxiety or any form of mental illness, that you know that it is possible to love yourself while living with this disease. We are so much more than our limitations. But we have to make the conscious choice to love ourselves; the choice to include others in our lives, the choice to follow your passion, the choice to be active and the choice to not allow perfection to be your goal. The path to not just existing starts with a choice to love yourself. And speaking from personal experience, that choice is the best one you can make.

Cover Image Credit: whitepaperbooks.com

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I Weigh Over 200 Lbs And You Can Catch Me In A Bikini This Summer

There is no magic number that determines who can wear a bikini and who cannot.
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It is about February every year when I realize that bikini season is approaching. I know a lot of people who feel this way, too. In pursuit of the perfect "summer body," more meals are prepped and more time is spent in the gym. Obviously, making healthier choices is a good thing! But here is a reminder that you do not have to have a flat stomach and abs to rock a bikini.

Since my first semester of college, I've weighed over 200 pounds. Sometimes way more, sometimes only a few pounds more, but I have not seen a weight starting with the number "1" since the beginning of my freshman year of college.

My weight has fluctuated, my health has fluctuated, and unfortunately, my confidence has fluctuated. But no matter what, I haven't allowed myself to give up wearing the things I want to wear to please the eyes of society. And you shouldn't, either.

I weigh over 200lbs in both of these photos. To me, (and probably to you), one photo looks better than the other one. But what remains the same is, regardless, I still chose to wear the bathing suit that made me feel beautiful, and I'm still smiling in both photos. Nobody has the right to tell you what you can and can't wear because of the way you look.

There is no magic number that equates to health. In the second photo (and the cover photo), I still weigh over 200 lbs. But I hit the gym daily, ate all around healthier and noticed differences not only on the scale but in my mood, my heart health, my skin and so many other areas. You are not unhealthy because you weigh over 200 lbs and you are not healthy because you weigh 125. And, you are not confined to certain clothing items because of it, either.

This summer, after gaining quite a bit of weight back during the second semester of my senior year, I look somewhere between those two photos. I am disappointed in myself, but ultimately still love my body and I'm proud of the motivation I have to get to where I want to be while having the confidence to still love myself where I am.

And if you think just because I look a little chubby that I won't be rocking a bikini this summer, you're out of your mind.

If YOU feel confident, and if YOU feel beautiful, don't mind what anybody else says. Rock that bikini and feel amazing doing it.

Cover Image Credit: Sara Petty

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'13 Reasons Why' Is A Show That NEEDS To Be Talked About More

It brings light on issues that so many people avoid, which is exactly why it needs to be talked about.
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There aren’t a lot of shows out there that show the “ugly,” raw, real side of things like sexual assault, depression, suicide, drug use and violence.

This may be because these things are hard to talk about, so not talking about them is a solution, which isn’t ideal.

Both seasons of "13 Reasons Why" on Netflix cover these topics, and despite the backlash, it has gotten, I fully believe it is a show that needs to be seen and talked about more often.

Because of season one, there are trigger warnings in some of the episodes in season two. These warnings advise of depictions of drug use, sexual assault and more. There are even excerpts of the cast talking at the end of each one with a website to go to if you or someone you know needs help.

Sexual assault is one of the bigger pictures that is touched upon in this series, from both female and male perspectives without giving anything away. This is SO important, especially including an incident involving a male because it shows that sexual assault can affect everyone, regardless of who you are.

Even though none of the characters came right out and said they were struggling with mental illnesses, many of the signs and symptoms are there.

I see it way too often on social media and in some movies and television shows; depression and other mental illnesses are romanticized and make it seem as if these issues are not a big deal, but the truth is, they are.

This show explores the side of mental illnesses that aren’t often seen, and even though it can be hard to watch, it needs to be shown in order for us to start a conversation about it. By talking about it, it can help end the stigma that surrounds mental health and hopefully encourages people to get the help they need.

By showing Hannah’s suicide scene at the end of season one, it’s understandable that it may be triggering to those who have survived suicide attempts, but again, it’s important and serves as a conversation starter for those who may not know how to talk about it or their feelings.

It also touches base on not only how Hannah herself feels, but how others are affected by her suicide. We see how Clay, Jessica, Alex and so many other characters deal with the loss, mostly in season two, but we also see how her parents are handling it.

I think diving deeper into the feelings of others after a loved one has committed suicide is important and can show that one’s decision to end their life may end their pain, but passes it onto their loved ones. It’s hopefully an eye-opener to those who are struggling and shows that their loved ones will be left with pain and questions that may never get answered, just like some of the characters in the show.

Again, without giving anything away to anyone who’s yet to see the second season, there are some instances of drug use which can also be a trigger for anyone who may be recovering or comes from a family that uses drugs.

"13 Reasons Why" shows a side of drug use that is frightening, nauseating and heartbreaking all at once with the intention to show what can happen if you fall into a life of drugs. It also shows that no matter how long you are clean, you relapse sometimes, which is all apart of recovery.

It’s no secret that violence plays a big part in this show - and a lot of stems from anger, nervousness and many other emotions and events throughout the show. A lot of times there are consequences that follow these instances of violence and can show that your actions can come back to bite you.

If you are sensitive to the subjects mentioned above, then "13 Reasons Why" may not be ideal for you to view alone, but if you want to see how these subjects are portrayed, I highly recommend watching it with a trusted friend, parent or adult.

I’ve seen way too many times where these subjects were not talked about because it’s hard to, because people don’t know what to say or people can’t find the words to say, and that’s not okay anymore.

There is a negative stigma surrounding all of these issues that need to be broken, and it starts with "13 Reasons Why."

It’s ok not to be ok. It’s ok to be hurt, sad and angry. There are people out there who love you, care about you and want you to get the help you need.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to someone you trust or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline is available 24 hours a day. Your call will remain confidential.

Cover Image Credit: 13 Reasons Why Official Instagram

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